Bribes for fussy kids can harm
PARENTS who offer their fussy children rewards to get them to eat certain foods may be doing more harm than good.
A new study of 416 Australian parents has found such techniques are common among mothers and fathers.
However, such tactics can lead to weight gain, make fussy eating worse, and increase poor food choices.
Fussy eating involves the rejection of familiar and often healthy food, usually in preference to “poor variety and quality of food intake”, said lead author Dr Holly Harris, of Queensland University of Technology.
Yet Dr Harris said fussiness with food was a “normal and transient phase for most children”, especially in the first six years of their lives.
Despite this, “the stress associated with fussy eating can negatively affect the child, parent, or child-parent relationship,” she said.
“Parents may interpret refusal of familiar food to be fussiness or perceive the behaviour as problematic and – with good intention – use feeding practices that may not appropriately respond to the child’s appetite,” Dr Harris said in the Journal of Nutrition Education and Behaviour.
Dr Harris and her team found mothers had higher levels of concern about fussy eating, reflecting higher levels of parenting sensitivity.
“Negative responses from a child’s food refusal – ie, crying, tantrums, gagging – may elicit distress from the overly-sensitive parent,” Dr Harris said.
Fathers used more persuasive techniques but tended to be driven more by time pressures and pragmatism as opposed to concern about the child’s fussy eating.
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